Minimum Sewer Flow Base Rate

More about sewer charges and Vancouver's low-income senior waiver to the minimum base flow rate

Vancouver’s sewer services charges for residential customers are based upon that customer's winter water usage, either in the previous November/January or the previous December/February billing periods, with a minimum volume base rate of 3 CCF per month or 6 CCF over two months since residential billing is every other month. (1 CCF = 100 cubic feet or 748 gallons).

Why is there a minimum base rate for sewer?

The amount you pay for sewer pays for more than just the day-to-day operations. Roughly one-third of sewer operating charges go to pay for the capital bonds used to construct and improve the city’s wastewater treatment facility and conveyance systems that benefit all customers. Growth and other new connections also pay one-time system development charges and sewer hookup fees for their share of growth-related improvements. The bond repayment and other fixed costs exist whether or not someone is discharging to the sewer. Without a minimum, a small percentage of customers had not been paying a portion of capital facility and system costs. In some cases, customers who lived elsewhere in winter months -- when water usage determines sewer rates -- were paying only about $21 a year for all sewer service, despite usage the rest of the year. The sewer minimum base is intended to establish an equitable means to covering the cost of the facilities and systems that serve all customers, regardless of actual usage.

Exceptions to the Minimum Sewer Flow Rate

The City of Vancouver offers a waiver to the minimum sewer flow rate for qualifying low-income senior customers. If you are a senior citizen 62 years of age or older and the total income of everyone living in your household falls at or below required levels, as set by Vancouver Municipal Code for this program, you may qualify for the minimum sewer flow waiver.

Requirements for Low Income Senior Waiver to Minimum Sewer Flow Rate

To qualify for the low-income senior waiver to the minimum sewer flow rate, you will need to fill out a form and bring it to Vancouver's Utilities Services. You will also be asked to provide documents for verification, including:

  • A valid driver’s license or other photo ID documentation verifying your age (first-time applicants only)
  • A copy of your most recent IRS tax return and related documents. If an income tax return was not filed, then a letter of non-filing from the IRS (first-time applicants only).

NOTE: An approved Minimum Sewer Flow Waiver is effective for 12 months. It is the sole responsibility of customers with waivers to re-apply for successive 12-month periods of eligibility. Customers currently receiving the waiver will be sent a renewal application by mail each year. Those who don't re-apply will be charged the minimum sewer flow rate.

If a qualifying low-income senior customer's winter usage exceeds the minimum volume charge of 3 CCF per month, no reduction applies. The waiver is for qualifying applicants with volumes below the minimum only.

You can download an application from the Supporting Documents at the bottom of this page. To request an application be sent to you by regular mail, please call the City of Vancouver's Utility Services at 360-487-7999.

To submit an application, please carefully read and complete the Low Income Senior Waiver of Minimum Sewer Flow Rate Form, noting the requirements. Please print out the form, sign and date the form, and submit the completed form in person, along with your required verifying documentation, to Vancouver Utility Services, 2323 General Anderson Road, just west of Stapleton Road and south of Fourth Plain. Do not return the form with your water/sewer utilities bill.

If you have questions or would like additional information on this program, please contact a Vancouver Utilities customer service representative at 360-487-7999.

Tips to reduce water consumption:

The average family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day. In the United States, the average toilet uses 5-7 gallons of water per flush and the average shower as much as 5 gallons per minute. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. If you’re using more than the minimum baseline, consider conserving winter water to lower your costs. Or to reduce water costs in general, consider these tips:

  • Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket. Each flush wastes water.
  • Check toilets and faucets for leaks and fix any problems.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it's full.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry or use the proper water level setting for your load size.
  • Don't leave the water running when brushing your teeth or shaving. With the tap running at full force, shaving takes 20 gallons of water, teeth-brushing takes 10.
  • Take shorter showers or use less water in your bath. A full bathtub requires about 36 gallons of water. A five-minute shower using a water-conserving showerhead will use just 15 to 25 gallons.
  • Consider installing water-efficient toilets, faucets and showerheads as a water-saving investment.